Sex Advice

Dear Dr. Locker: How do people get a sexual fetish? What are they? Are they normal?

Answer from Dr. Locker

Fetish is defined as something, such as a material object, or a part of the body (often nonsexual), that arouses or gratifies sexual desire. A fetish may be created during sexual play, or it might be part of one’s sexual orientation, which has been deeply embedded in one’s sexuality for years.

For many people, an object can become a fetish accidentally in childhood. For example, if an 11-year-old boy sees a woman undressing for the very first time in his life, and she is taking off a red silk tank top, then it’s possible that for the rest of his life, he will be most aroused when he sees a red silk tank top. Of course, this does not always happen, but, as I said, it is possible.

Sometimes fetishes develop during the teen years and are often associated with a person’s first sexual experiences. Maybe the smell of leather makes a girl’s nipples stand at attention because her first boyfriend was wearing a bomber jacket the first time he fingered her. Or if the first girl a guy has sex with had her hair in a ponytail, he might need nothing more than a glimpse of a ponytail to become instantly erect.

Fetishes may include certain items of clothing. Bras, garter belts, stockings, pantyhose, lingerie, and high-heel shoes are considered erotic by many people. When someone has a fetish for this type of clothing, he or she may need to see it, touch it, or wear it to get aroused. Some people have fetishes for seeing their partner in a uniform from a particular job, such as a policeman, maid, cheerleader, marine, or military officer. Some other common fetish outfits include clothes made of leather, latex, or rubber that are cut in a style that displays the body in a sexually provocative fashion. This type of “fetish wear” is available (and expensive) from sex stores, websites and catalogs.

Fetishes are a normal aspect of human sexuality, and many people have a healthy sex life that includes a fetish. Although, they can cause distress for some people who have them, or sometimes for their partners. The fact is that some things are just more arousing to some people than they are to others. Fetishes are extremely individual. The only time that a fetish is problematic is if it gets in the way of someone’s life or love life. For example, if a woman can’t enjoy sex unless she’s having it on an oak desk in a man’s office, then her fetish for oak desks might become a problem. She might get caught having sex at work, or maybe she will cheat on her partner every time she happens upon someone with an oak desk. Or, another example of a problematic fetish behavior: if a man gets turned on by women's feet so much that if he looks at a woman's foot in public, then he feels the need to masturbate in public. Most people can control their fetishes enough to enjoy sex and relationships in safe, private ways, and hopefully, they are able to share their little eccentricities with their partners in a fun and healthy manner.

Copyright © Dr. Sari Locker